Driver of 'high performance' Mini, 69, found guilty of causing crash which killed Yorkshire dad on his way home from football match after 'dangerous' overtaking

A 69-year-old man driving a ‘high performance’ Mini has been convicted of causing the death of a young father as a result of a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre.

Alex Firth, 34, died instantly when his Vauxhall Astra was sent spinning out of control and into the path of a lorry after it was clipped by Barrie Barker’s Mini Cooper S as it passed him on Claycliffe Road in Barugh Green, Barnsley, in April 2022.

Sheffield Crown Court heard that Royal Mail postal worker Mr Firth, his new wife Kirsty and his 10-year-old son from a previous relationship had just left an Aldi supermarket after a junior football match earlier in the day when Barker, who was behind them, decided to overtake on the 40mph section as they travelled uphill with a poor view of the road ahead.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Barker tried to pin the blame for the collision on Mr Firth, claiming that the Astra had been going extremely slowly then ‘suddenly’ accelerated when the Mini was already in the opposite carriageway, ‘pushing’ him out and stopping him from pulling back into his lane.

Alex Firth, who worked for Royal Mail in Leeds, had only married his wife Kirsty shortly before the fatal collision (family photo)Alex Firth, who worked for Royal Mail in Leeds, had only married his wife Kirsty shortly before the fatal collision (family photo)
Alex Firth, who worked for Royal Mail in Leeds, had only married his wife Kirsty shortly before the fatal collision (family photo)

Yet CCTV played to the court showed that both vehicles had been travelling at similar speeds and that there was a large enough distance between them for Barker to have made the decision to remain behind the family’s Astra.

The jury rejected Barker’s version of events and found him guilty of causing Mr Firth’s death by dangerous driving, and serious injury to Mrs Firth and the child, after a five-day trial.

Mrs Firth suffered a brain injury and multiple fractures, and has no recollection of the crash which killed her husband. Their car struck a Freshlink lorry head-on after the Mini made contact with their front bumper as it tried to avoid the HGV itself.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Two other cars travelling behind the lorry also shunted each other because their drivers had to brake suddenly to avoid Barker’s oncoming Mini.

The Crown successfully argued that the layout of the road should not have been a surprise to Barker, who lived locally and was visiting his son at the time, and that he should have expected cars to pull out ahead of him at the Aldi car park exit. They said he had ‘time and space to slow down and stay behind’ the Firths while expecting their car to gain speed, but instead overtook ‘almost immediately’ with a ‘severely limited’ view.

The prosecution counsel added: “No competent driver should have made that decision – it was foolhardy as that location is a blind summit. There were vehicles approaching and he could only see a short distance ahead. Alexander Firth was not going at 20mph, and it was not likely that Mr Firth deliberately kept Barker off the road. Why would he have wanted to cause an accident? He may not even have realised he was being overtaken.

"Barrie Barker was wrong about being pushed out into the other lane – it was the opposite. He was wrong about Mr Firth hitting the back of his car.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The defence had tried to claim that Barker was ‘hung out to dry’ by the Astra’s speed increasing before the overtaking had been completed.

Barker, of Dodworth, has lived in Barnsley all of his life and has held a driving licence since 1971. The retired pensioner, who suffers from a number of health conditions including anxiety and gout, lives alone and was remanded in custody until his return to court on May 17, with the judge warning him that a prison sentence was ‘inevitable’.